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Trapped in a Golden State, away from Boston’s snow

istockphoto/globe staff illustration

OJAI, Calif.

I woke up here a few days ago and shared a salubrious “golden milk” concoction (turmeric, ginger, and almond milk) with my Tibetan Buddhist pals. There’s a reason that spiritual wanderers flock to the Ojai Valley, about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles: It’s beautiful, cool, and serene.

The sun was shining and the air was clean. We were late for our appointment with the Korean foot masseur. I'm happy, but I'm not happy, I told my friends. My wife, my neighbors, and my colleagues in Boston are really suffering right now. I can't say I want to be there, but I'm feeling anxious about them.

"Ah," a friend said. "You are experiencing survivor's guilt."

Really? The term, which has flitted in and out of psychiatry's wiggy Diagnostic & Statistical Manual over the years, is usually associated with more traumatic events, such as genocides or airplane crashes. But natural disasters indeed qualify, and Boston has been experiencing this month-long natural disaster without me.


I've missed three of the four weeks of Boston's horrible February. I traveled to Florida at the beginning of the month, and then headed to Southern California, as I always do around this time of year. I almost certainly suffer from seasonal affective disorder, but I treat my symptoms with airplane tickets and Airbnb stays, not with pills.

So — forgive me — the past few weeks have been absolutely glorious. Last week, I realized one of my dreams, an evening picnic at Dockweiler Beach, directly underneath the outbound runways at Los Angeles International Airport.

When the Emirates double-decker Airbus 380s lumber out for the antipodes, you can almost feel the landing gear caressing your hair. Yes, I've stood on Bayswater Street under Logan's 22L and 22R approaches, but this was like Disneyland compared to the Topsfield Fair.

The day before the picnic, a friend took me sailing in the bay off of Marina Del Rey. Off to port, we spotted architect Frank Gehry at the helm of his 44-foot yacht, the Foggy, puttering out of the same channel. Yes, there were dolphins aplenty, a contested whale sighting, and even a few hardy souls swimming at Santa Monica Beach.


That was the day your gutter fell into your backyard, weighted down by hundreds of pounds of ice dams. I'm sorry. Believe me, my house is a complete wreck. It's just that I'm not living in it right now.

Earlier this week, I checked the daily Los Angeles Times e-mail digest that lands in my inbox. "Record Heat in California," the headline read. Then: "The West Coast continues to enjoy its warmest winter on record, while the East Coast remains buried in snow with record-low temperatures."

That was the day my wife called to say there was a power outage on our block.

That very morning I had sent her a picture of the South Pasadena canyon, where I was spending a few nights. Eucalyptus and palm trees ran downhill as far as the eye could see. I think that qualified as a random act of cruelty.

Back in Ojai, we blew off church last Sunday to learn our future from the I Ching, also known as The Book of Changes. The Buddhists had gathered to throw the divinational coins at the start of the Tibetan New Year. "It is time to open the gates and leave the courtyard," was the message from the venerable book. "This will lead to great joy."

But the courtyard is walled in by 10 feet of snow! I objected. Joy postponed, as usual.


Scot Lehigh: How would you grade Boston's snow-removal efforts?


Editorial: After record snowfall, push back state standardized tests

Dante Ramos: Telecommuting won't fix snow woes

Letter: Neither snow nor more snow stops Meals on Wheels

Alex Beam's column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at